A Sigh of Relief

January 01, 2014

During a normal day, you take nearly 25,000 breaths, so keeping your respiratory system in good shape is essential—especially as you age. Here’s a look at common respiratory conditions, with tips on what you can do and how Providence can help.

The Facts

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15 million Americans have been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which actually refers to a group of diseases that includes emphysema, chronic bronchitis and asthma. Pneumonia, bronchitis and other lung infections, although not associated with COPD, also can be devastating.

What You Can Do

Improve your breathing and lung health with these tips: Get a flu shot, get the pneumonia (pneumococcal) vaccine, quit smoking and increase the amount you exercise. “Respiratory muscle tone is so important,” says M. Reza Nahed, MD, a pulmonary medicine specialist at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center.

Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center San Pedro began an exercise program 30 years ago that meets under the name “Beyond Rehab” at the San Pedro Peninsula YMCA. “A toned muscle that is in good shape requires less oxygen than a muscle that is in poor shape,” says Kris Brust, RN, disease management coordinator at Providence Little Company of Mary San Pedro, who co-leads the program.

Just ask 81-year-old San Pedro resident and emphysema patient Ruth Downing. “The class encourages me to sit, stand, lift, reach and move forward in all aspects of my life,” she says.

Finally, vigilantly watch for infection. “A senior’s response to infection is not as robust as a young person’s, therefore infection may not be as obvious,” Dr. Nahed says. Signs may include fever, lowered alertness, persistent cough, mucus and chest tightness.

What We Can Do

From inpatient services to pulmonary rehabilitation to classes on how to manage COPD and prevent infection, a range of pulmonary services at Providence Health & Services Southern California can help you breathe easier.

In fact, Providence Holy Cross and Providence Tarzana Medical Centers ranked in the top 10 in California for pulmonary services in 2012, and both are five-star rated for treatment of pneumonia.

Providence pulmonary experts can show you how to use peak flow meters to measure airflow, how to take maintenance medications or perform breathing treatments to prevent flare-ups, and how to recognize danger signs that require immediate care.

We can also help you develop an action plan. “We help you control your COPD and other lung conditions so they don’t control you,” says Providence Little Company of Mary San Pedro Respiratory Educator Rick Hamilton, RCP, AEC.